The Missional Conversationâ€™s influence on Evangelism Caring for a pallative world Evangelism in an online world The Unbelievable Gospel - Book review
ISSUE 71 SUMMER 2015
Q&A with Myles Simmons
In this issue
From the Director
One of the highlights of the Crossover year is the Emerging Evangelists conference. Invited on the recommendation of the state Baptist associations, the participants have the opportunity to be affirmed in their role as evangelists and share their stories about ministry in local communities. The stories vary, as do the experiences and the evangelists themselves. However in the midst of this rich diversity is the powerful unifying reality that Jesus is still calling out people who He has gifted as evangelists. The underlying purpose of the conference is to support emerging evangelists by affirming their call, contribute to their spiritual formation, develop their skill set and link them with other colleagues and strengthen their local church engagement. The conference seeks to not only encourage the evangelists in their own evangelism ministry but also how to help others in the local church bolster their evangelism engagement. The articles in this edition of PRAC introduce you to a selection of the stories and experiences that contributed to the success of the third Emerging Evangelists Conference. During the conference Kim Hammond presented a very thought provoking paper on the “missional conversation”. He and Darren Cronshaw have collaborated in this edition of PRAC and ask the question, ‘a selling church or a sending church’? Cody Bros own journey to faith in Jesus via YouTube makes his contribution on “Evangelism in an online world” compelling reading. Evangelism in the workplace is the common theme of the interview with Myles Symons and Rama Spencer’s amazing stories from her GP surgery. Stan Fetting has contributed a very helpful review of Jonathan Dodson’s book “The Unbelievable Gospel.” We are now planning for another Emerging Evangelists conference in 2016. If you are interested in nominating someone, including yourself, please contact us at email@example.com Let me take this opportunity to thank you for supporting the 2015 Crossover Easter Offering. It is funds from this appeal that help make the Emerging Evangelists conference possible. Thank you for your partnership with Crossover in helping Australian Baptist share Jesus.
Keith Jobberns Director Crossover
Follow us www.crossover.org.au
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Q&A with Myles Symons Myles Symons, a delegate at our Emerging Evangelists conference lives in Hervey Bay where he runs his own business and serves as the young adults pastor at Hervey Bay Baptist Church. We spoke to him about his bi-vocational life. You have come into Christian ministry later in life and through an unusual pathway after being successful in business. How has this advantaged you from an evangelistic point of view? There are great advantages in working or being in business before studying for ministry or entering into ministry. I managed multiple job sites and trades which all had timelines, deadlines and penalties. Running a successful business has helped me understand those I minister to both inside the church and outside, as you get to engage with people up close and personal, your faith is on display in the way you deal with every part of your business from quoting, service providing, conflict resolution or getting paid.
How do you balance being a bi-vocational worker, mixing business with ministry as well as being a husband and father? This is a challenge. You must have a supportive spouse and a home that is a place of support and refuge. If you don’t, both the church and business worlds will eat you up. The key is not to try and balance everything, it is to understand what season of life you are in and live in that season. We have a very full life, others would see it as busy, but it is just full. We have a blended family with five children in two countries. My wife also works part time and runs our women’s ministry at church. I pastor a group of 60 young adults while running a café supply company plus my role as a father and husband. I am a fly by the seat of my pants type person and my wife is the meticulous planner – so it works, don’t ask me how, it just does. We have a calendar and a rule, if it isn’t on the calendar, it doesn’t happen. Rhythm and balance starts with what God has called me to do as a priority, and I have
been prepared to cancel organised events to care for family over ministry. This hasn’t always been the case.
Why are you passionate about evangelism? Quite simply, Jesus was, he loved the lost right where they were, in the middle of their mess. It is the only thing we won’t be able to do in heaven. I want to be a part of the solution, helping people come to faith and have a full life and experience the delights. I love living with and loving the lost, sometimes more than those in the church.
You have made a name for yourself locally by way of some unique marketing methods and also through networking. Why is this important to you and do you think churches should do similar? How you brand yourself and market yourself to the community is vital. People’s perception will come from your marketing, so it needs to be clearly communicated across all forms of media. Most churches are pretty generic with how they present themselves among the community. As for networking, we are often and sadly the same, very insular and don’t really have a clue where we fit in to the community. So we let the community decide where we fit. I took a risk to connect with the business community, local politicians and local council. These keep me well in touch with what is happening at the grass roots of the city. I think churches should encourage their leaders to engage in both professional marketing and formal networking, we are a part of this world.
How does evangelism shape your ministry within a Baptist church? This is the first Baptist church I have been a part of, but in every church I have served including this one, I have made it clear to those I serve and those that lead with me, that we are a grace based ministry. We are here primarily as dispensers of God’s grace and I encourage that through teaching and application through personal modelling and stories and by creating bridge events. We also have formal invite cards to our other programs. I also invite others to do life with my non-Christian mates and me. It’s important not to be isolated in mission. PRAC SUMMER 2015 | 02
The Missional Conversation’s influence on Evangelism Kim Hammond & Darren Cronshaw
One question most grabs our imagination from the whole missional conversation. The question is not an issue of big or small size, traditional or contemporary music, or chapel or shopfront buildings, but the posture we adopt. We ask: “Are we a selling church or a sending church?” Selling churches deliver religious goods and services to keep Christian customers happy. Sending churches join God at work in their city or neighbourhood. Where-ever we gather, in a home or large auditorium, we want to know what is important for us when we scatter? What rhythms make sense for us as God’s people sent on mission? What postures and practices help us send one another and be effective in evangelism? We sought to unpack what we have been learning about this in our book Sentness. This is how the missional conversation inspires us to be and share what really is good news. As the church in the Western world moved into the middle of the twentieth century, it began to face a major cultural crisis. The church began to realize it was no longer the centre of society but at the beginning of a “post-Christendom” shift. Mission thinkers such as Lesslie Newbigin, David Bosch and Christopher Wright wrote about how the church needed to rediscover the Missio Dei, the mission of God or even the missionary God or the sending God who sends his Son and Spirit for us. This sending God sent his Son so we may be reconnected with God. The Father and Son sent the Spirit to empower us for mission. This sending Trinitarian God sends us into the world to cooperate in remaking the world for God’s purposes. These and other writers inspired the next half a century of authors and practitioners that would in turn lead 03 | PRAC SUMMER 2015
us into a new era of church planting and missional activity. This rediscovering of mission in the biblical narrative has been a significant gift to the church in the 20th and 21st century. It meant the church began a new season and a refocus on being a sending agency. At its best, the church has always known this. Renewal movements throughout history have called the church back to mission. The church is birthed and formed for sentness.
Untidy revolutions All movements that bring real lasting change begin with a holy revolution. They see a preferred future and speak to the status quo from a prophetic viewpoint. Paul had good news for the church when he wrote: “These are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.” (Ephesians 4:11, NLT) As kids, we used to get several presents for birthdays and Christmas. We would wonder what each of them held, and value them. We as the church have been given five main gifts by God. These gifts are designed to set us up for life and maturity. They are gifts to value and receive with joy. Each “APEST” gift (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds and Teachers) contributes to the church’s health and mission. Those who function evangelistically infectiously help those outside the church experience the good news. Apostolic leaders take the gospel from one context to another. We still need teachers to help us apply God’s word and pastors or shepherds to nurture a community in faith for they support what evangelists gather and apostles pioneer. We also need prophetic types who challenge the status quo and point us counter-culturally towards God’s purposes. Prophets among us help us see the next new thing God is doing. The conversations and activism of the missional movement birthed out of prophetic ministry. It called the church to its biblical mandate for mission. It mandated missional life as practitioners and not just theorists. It called
the church to reengage with the poor and marginalized. It reminded us that Jesus’ main message focused on the Kingdom of God, not church. It is a prophetic challenge to cooperate with God in taking the church beyond the walls. Like all the APEST gifts, prophetic gifts are designed and given to build up the church and keep us on track. After listing the five leadership functions or ministry roles, Paul explained, “Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12) Nevertheless, we admit, there were some parts of this conversation that came out of reaction and hurt. Prophets’ voices are sometimes marred by pain and misunderstanding. The revolution is necessary but sometimes untidy. Some things were defined by what they were against rather than what they were for. The 1990’s and 2000’s were a period of experimentation without clear blueprints. The church knew it had to change but was unsure of its form. Where did singing and preaching fit in new missional communities? Sometimes the implication was that anyone trying to be attractive with programs was not missional. Simply meeting on a Thursday night, in a café or pub, doesn’t make you more evangelistically effective. Most of us are convinced of the need for change. We realise we need transformed ways of expressing church and sharing good news. We want our ecclesiology to be fluid in its expression, so that we can be true to the essence of what church is designed to be – the people of God sent on mission. We’ve heard this prophetic challenge.
From Prophetic to Apostolic The challenge we struggle with now, and where the missional conversation is turning, is the Apostolic challenge. The challenge is not just questioning the status quo and pointing in new directions (we thank God for the Prophetic voices);
but also fruitfully practicing and implementing new forms to take the gospel to new contexts. We need Apostolic leadership. A transition of the missional conversation from a predominantly Prophetic challenge to an Apostolic impetus is timely.
“We as the church have been given five main gifts by God. These gifts are designed to set us up for life and maturity” Apostolic frameworks ask about scalability and sustainability. While still building on the theological frameworks and prophetic challenge of its founding charisma, Apostolic leadership takes the missional conversation closer to transforming the actual practices of local church. The challenge is how do we train apostolic leaders and release apostolic movement? We don’t only want to understand where we came from, we want to move forward. I (Kim) spent five years in America (20092015). Before I left Australia there seemed to be more conversation about what the missional movement involved. When I returned, I noticed most of my conversations with church pastors and congregations are now around how to mobilize the people of God to be on mission. No one argues with me about the credibility of the imperative for missional living. What people are longing for is good practical equipping based on real stories of change and implementation.
Reframing evangelism What has the missional conversation contributed to evangelism? We are passionate about reframing and reclaiming evangelism. We have been learning about the importance of incarnational living and practising proximity and presence with people. We are learning about applying the Missio Dei to evangelism – discerning what God is already up to in people’s lives and cooperating with that. We are learning how to invite people with grace to belong in Christian community even before they believe (according to our frameworks) or behave (according to our standards). We love the church, but are adopting a Kingdom of God focus as more important than a church-focused mindset. The missional conversation has challenged us prophetically in those directions. Now we are more open to it also leading us apostolically. What most captures our imaginations about evangelism and outreach is the biblical narrative of a sending God equipping people to be sent out to live like Jesus. What is most shaping our activism are fresh rhythms and practices that help us practice and live as good news in our neighbourhoods. We wonder where is the missional conversation inviting you to go deeper in sharing the life of Jesus?
I (Kim) came into the missional conversation in 2001. I was finishing ministry studies at Tabor Victoria and was a pastor at a large Pentecostal church. I had never read Alan Hirsch or Michael Frost. However Forge Mission Training Network introduced me to some of Australia’s leading missional thinkers and leaders. Forge inspired me to plant The Junction with ten friends and experience the start of some of the most fulfilling time in my ministry life. I (Darren) started listening to the missional conversation in 2003 with the launch of Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch’s The Shaping of Things to Come. Two years later Kim and Alan and Debra Hirsch connected me with Forge – first to get inspiration from the training and then as part of the Victorian staff. The stories I have heard about what God is doing, and the missional and leadership principles taught at Forge, transformed my approach to ministry.
Kim Hammond is Forge’s International Director and serves as Pastor of City Life Casey, a campus of the second largest church in Australia with 10,000 people and five sites, and Mission Catalyst for Evangelism with the Baptist Union of Victoria (BUV). Darren Cronshaw serves as Pastor of AuburnLife, a small but vibrant multicultural community next door to Swinburne University, and Mission Catalyst – Researcher with BUV. They wrote Sentness (IVP 2014), and are now writing Sharing Life (IVP, forthcoming 2018). Write to us via firstname.lastname@example.org PRAC SUMMER 2015 | 04
Caring for a Palliative World For 19 years I have worked as a GP on the borderlands of Ipswich QLD, a town that hasn’t always had the greatest reputation. The practice has nine doctors and is a very supportive atmosphere where we actively teach medical students. My passion as a doctor is for good communication and a holistic approach and I love my vocation! I joke with my patients that I’m paid to have a good conversation with them, and that I’m a human plumber. Of course it’s so much more complex than that and to keep up with expanding knowledge its thought that you should read 18 journals and 2 books a week. As well as general practice I’ve worked in youth shelters, helped as a youth pastor’s wife and spoken at a lot of community and church events over the years. Over time I’ve seen many of my patients start a relationship with Jesus, and seen their lives revolutionised. Almost all of my terminally ill patients have wanted to know if they could have a relationship with God. I always say to people that I’m a lapsed atheist! Many people ask me if I believe in alternative medicine and I say “yes - it’s free and it’s prayer”. It is amazing what happens when you pray. 05 | PRAC SUMMER 2015
Dr Rama spencer MBBS FRACGP
It always amazes me how God revolutionises people’s lives economically, socially and even educationally. He is countercultural in that this transformation starts internally and then progresses to their outside world. I have seen incredible transformation such as healing from cancer, addictions, emotional trauma from childhood sexual abuse and so on. I believe the practical is as important as the spiritual and when combined together it’s so powerful. Seemingly little things such as listening, asking the right questions, and being totally non-judgemental make a big difference. I believe God has given me wisdom for justice, diagnosis and strategic networking that has helped specific individuals. Sometimes a simple word of encouragement is enough. I’m grateful for the support of my church, a little Baptist community that has tripled in the last two years.They support me in my context where the people I serve may have no idea of Christian culture and are sensitive to help me serve, support and listen. We recognise the Holy Spirit does the real change. Transformation is no instant coffee type process! People need more than education, we each need our own revelation of Jesus. Every day I walk in a “NewTestament” world, I see God’s impact but am immersed in a culture that is largely ignorant or misconceived about who Jesus is. I don’t find it difficult to be a Christian in the workplace, but it can be exhausting in a very fulfilling way! I’m so thankful to my close comrades whose support and wisdom refresh me.
Over the last 5 years I have lost many of the things that were dear to me. It has been a Job like period in my life. However although I was never “away” from God, or lacked empathy for people, I think suffering pruned me to be attentive to the voice of the Holy Spirit and to people. It has certainly caused me to be aware and not patronise the broken hearted, the disenfranchised, and the misunderstood. I am so grateful to the absolute faithfulness of Father God, the comradeship of his body and the intimacy that his presence brings - it is difficult to describe how profound these things are with one sentence. In the midst of this, I’ve rediscovered art, been snorkelling, kayaking and 4 wheel driving. I have an upcoming art show and enjoy making my teenagers listen to 80s disco, funk and sharing jokes. Lately I’ve enjoyed empowering Christians toward evangelism and sharing my story with nonChristians. After 30 years of doing this quietly, I’ve reflected on some principles that bring break-through when sharing the gospel. As a fairly simple person I think evangelism is simply the result of 3 great relationships – an internal vibrant organic relationship with God, a healthy relationship with yourself and then a love which should naturally be produced for other people. It’s a process not a method. Dr Rama Spencer MBBS FRACGP. Rama is a GP in Ipswich QLD, and attends Kenmore Baptist Church.
Evangelism in an online world
Interview with a youtube convert.
Thanks for sharing with us! Please tell us who are you?
were Christians. By God’s grace, He has led some of those to become Christians.
Do you have any suggestions for those exploring internet evangelism?
I’m Cody, I was raised in Canberra and I currently attend Macquarie Baptist church, where I am a member of the worship band and an upcoming student pastor for 2016. I work as a supervisor at Macquarie Ice Rink and I love to go surfing and playing basketball.
What’s your opinion of the opportunity that the internet gives as an evangelism tool?
I take any opportunity that I can to engage people with the Gospel. I encourage you to use internet evangelism as much as you can, drag a whole range of videos from around the internet to share. If you are intending to make videos, hit hard questions and always bring it back to the gospel because the power of God lies there. The best method I find, is to combine face-to-face evangelism with internet evangelism. By having chats with people and then linking them to relevant videos which provide deeper insights. This maximises the content, giving you more opportunity to share the truth of the Gospel, and provides a platform for them to ask questions.
Tell us about your journey towards following Jesus. I was raised as a nominal Catholic which during my teenage years turned into atheism. I didn’t know many Christians and grew up as most Aussie young men do. After being challenged by a range of apologetic videos that I stumbled upon I watched a YouTube video by Chris White called the Gospel Video. After watching this video I gave my life to Christ, having already been thoroughly convinced of the true claims of Christianity by the previous apologetic videos, and then hearing the gospel clearly presented for the first time. I then contacted someone I knew who was a Christian, and they connected me with a church.
What difference has following Jesus made in your life? It radically changed my life causing me to reconsider my future study at University of Canberra as a journalist and instead deciding to enter into ministry. For the first time I knew God, and I loved Him more than anything in this life. It made me bold for the Gospel and led me to share the good news with my family and friends, none of whom
Like all evangelism tools not everything works for everyone, some people won’t respond but others will. There are so many people who would not even know a Christian, let alone have the gospel presented to them clearly. The internet provides a platform for serious Christian thought, apologetics, and most of all, the message of Jesus Christ. It is a tool that we must use, and many have already used to great results. I am eternally grateful for that ministry, otherwise I would still be living in sin and separated from God.
Some are sceptical of the capacity of impersonal online content to be effective in evangelism. What is your view on this? The internet is an amazingly useful tool for the Christian evangelist. It should never take priority over face-to-face conversations, but nevertheless it is a platform that captures the attention of many people, giving them a chance to hear the good news of Jesus. It simply is effective. Those that have taken the internet and used it to share videos and audio files have seen many true conversions. Think about it in the same fashion as radio shows in the 20th century (and still to this day) where preachers could share their sermons on radio stations, the format is almost identical (in the sense that it is impersonal) but people were converted and it was effective.
How have you seen God at work through these opportunities? God has blessed me tremendously by bringing people to Him. As I said earlier, by combining face-to-face and internet evangelism it helps me to provide more information and opportunities, often sparking more conversations. Pray for these tools, that people would listen to them and engage with the true claims of Christianity, and pray for those who use them. Cody Bros is at student at Morling College, and attends Macquarie Baptist Church, NSW.
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The Unbelievable Gospel by Jonathan Dodson Book Review by Stan Fetting, Crossover Operations Manager At the outset of his book on evangelism, author Jonathan Dodson strikes a chord that many within the church can identify with in saying that ‘Evangelism has become a byword. It has fallen to the wayside in Christian vocabulary. Some see it sitting in the gutter; others walk by it without noticing at all. Some have replaced it with missional; others have replaced it with social justice. Still more are aware it is there but deliberately avoid it, and with good reason’. There exists within the church today an uncertainty about the place of evangelism and even the word. There is confusion about where the ‘missional conversation’ has left evangelism and if the term is still valid. Into this confusion the author sets out to ‘recover a believable evangelism, one that moves beyond the cultural and personal barriers we have erected in contemporary evangelism to rediscover the power of the biblical gospel’. Dodson first considers why people find the Gospel unbelievable and covers some conflicts that have emerged between traditional ways of doing evangelism and the post modern world. He acknowledges a key change that has occurred in evangelism: ‘The cultural shift from formal presentational evangelism to informal relational evangelism has changed the questions every day Christians ask themselves about sharing the gospel…instead of asking “what is the right thing to say?” many people are asking themselves “what should I avoid saying?” He believes that ‘rational, presentational approaches no longer work well within a post modern culture, where people want to be known, loved and respected, not informed and presented to’. His remedy is to move towards a more relational form of evangelism: ‘Evangelism doesn’t have to be mechanical; it can be intuitive and relational. It doesn’t have to be pressure-driven and event oriented. Listening to people’s stories, we can discern how best to share the Gospel with them in a natural, relatable way.’ My favourite quote in the book illustrates the power of listening and questions in evangelism: ‘When Francis Schaeffer was asked what he would do if he had an hour with a non-Christian, he replied by saying he would listen for 55 minutes. Then in those five minutes he would have something to say.’ Dodson examines ‘impersonal’ forms of witness focusing on ‘workplace evangelism’. He advocates that Christians preach their faith ‘through’ their work as opposed to witnessing ‘at work’. Discussing ‘self righteous proselytising’ Dodson examines what he calls ‘preachy’ forms of evangelism. He notes ‘Instead of repelling sinners and seekers, Jesus’ holiness brought him scandalously close to skeptics, prostitutes, and social rejects.’ He describes evangelism as the ‘announcement of God’s good news.’ In writing about navigating pluralism Dodson looks at the clash between the gospel and ‘new tolerance’, the belief that ‘all opinions are equally valid or true’ and 07 | PRAC SUMMER 2015
how the notion that Jesus is the ‘way, the truth and the life’ can be communicated through ‘tolerant persuasion’. Dodson covers the reality that many Christians are reluctant to engage in evangelism due to the fear that they don’t have enough knowledge. Helpfully he observes that ‘Thinking faith isn’t a matter of rehearsing canned apologetic defences; it’s a commitment to thinking deeply about the implications of the gospel in various cultures and then working to communicate that to people in those contexts.’ Next he discusses some better ways forward suggesting a fresh vision of the gospel, handling the gospel in its different forms, and speaking the gospel in ‘cultural key’. Practically, key points in the book are extruded and each chapter is concluded with some discussion questions relevant to that topic. It is an ideal book to be read and discussed in a small group context. In the remaining chapters, the author has included a practical section that covers a number of various gospel metaphors that can be used in evangelistic conversations covering; acceptance, hope, intimacy, tolerance and approval. Dodson finishes up with a chapter on evangelism in the community, noting the research of Richard V Peace, ‘research indicates that no more than 30 percent of all conversions are punctiliar in nature. Most conversions take place over time, often with many fits and starts as one moves towards Jesus and his way. For most people conversion is a process, not an event.’ Earlier in the book Dodson seeks to relieve the pressure many feel in evangelistic situations noting that ‘good evangelism isn’t an all or nothing endeavour’, and that ‘good evangelism takes time.’ We need not feel the pressure to ‘seal the deal’ in the space on one conversation. Dodson believes that the ‘church bears the responsibility of evangelism but not the power of conversion.’ Dodson rounds out the book with a reminder of the role of the Holy Spirit in witness and the dangers to be faced: ‘Evangelism is war. It is boldly encroaching on the enemy’s territory, arousing a lion, and we should expect his fierce response. Satan will discourage you in your efforts, distract you in your prayers, and even buffet you with sufferings.’ I recommend this book as an ideal reference tool to be used by Christians seeking a better understanding of evangelism in contemporary times and also as a small group study tool. It’s not a ‘how to’ manual but it is a resource that covers important issues and offers useful content for engaging people in an understanding of the gospel.
The articles in this edition of PRAC introduce you to a selection of the stories and experiences of people who attended our third Emerging E...
Published on Dec 4, 2015
The articles in this edition of PRAC introduce you to a selection of the stories and experiences of people who attended our third Emerging E...